Thursday, March 17, 2011

Scary Noises

Yesterday my son came home with quick shifting moods. At first, he was very irritable, then he became frightened when he looked at me and dropped to the floor to cover his eyes. As he began to cry, he shared that while at school taking a test, he suddenly couldn’t focus anymore. All the surrounding noises, like the movement of shifting paper or a pencil rolling on a desk became very loud and scary. He said the noises didn’t sound normal, they were altered, like they were unreal. When I asked him if he told his teacher he needed a break for fresh air he said, “I couldn’t because I was too scared to get out of my chair.”

I don’t know if what he’s experiencing is anxiety, but whatever it is, we’re definitely in a down phase of his mood. This week he’s talked about feeling weird and very tired, he’s complained about his moods quickly changing on him. Today he woke up very irritable, slamming dishes for no reason. Yesterday, I watched him cry as he sat on the couch, then a few seconds later start to laugh through tears, with a moment of confusion on his face, then he began to cry again. It was intense to watch, his moods were changing in a matter of seconds.

I can’t imagine how hard this must be on him. Imagine being at school and hearing scary, loud noises, then being too scared to ask for help. I just don’t know how he gets through the day. He’s one courageous boy.

As he left for school I gave him a long hug, telling him to breathe through this mood changes and reminding him that this too will pass.

* * *

Has anyone heard of this “scary noise” symptom?


  1. Yes, I have heard about the scary noise symptoms. What would be a 'normal' noise for people without the illness seems to get really loud for those with mental illness. Our son is the same way.

    What your son is experiencing is rapid cycling. Our son does it, too within seconds or minutes of one another. I can't imagine being him.

  2. I would say any time your son is experiencing the world or his senses relating to the world in any kind of distorted way (especially when it is scary) you are looking at pre-psychosis or psychosis. It sounds like his school stresses him quite a bit and the stress can bring this on. That happened with my son. I can't remember, does your son have an IEP yet? Like the pp post said the rapidly changing moods sounds like rapid cycling. Ughh. That is rough stuff - for you and him. Again, it could be triggered from the stress of school. I hope this passes for you both soon.

  3. Thanks Shari and Meg for your feedback. My son has a 504 plan, they treat it like an IEP, the principal has been great. Even today he helped me with my son after we left the campus park, my son was becoming threatening and I called the school and he showed up to take him for a walk. This was an hour after school already let out. His teacher has been great at watching him when I give her emails about how he’s doing.

    I too felt like I was seeing rapid cycling, I just wasn't sure if it happened that fast.

    As for the noises, you bring up a good point Meg. The last time he saw monsters he showed a little of this type of behavior. Especially being startled so easily.

    So does pre-psychosis behavior come and go like mood swings for our kids? Would I see this type of thing on and off when he’s cycling?

    Also, he mentioned today that his perspective was off, things far away felt very close etc. Is this the part of his senses being distorted that you were talking about? Dizziness too?

  4. I have a huge problem with intensified noises. But I am Bipolar and ADD. I have sat in a classroom and just cried cause I was so distracted by by other peoples activities. The scribbling pencils and turning papers just made my skin crawl. I was the last one to hand in my test and I was in tears. But now I take generic Ritalin for the ADD and the excessive noises have stopped. The problem may be that his attention is so distracted by the classroom activities that he can't focus on the task at hand. Then the anxiety that causes triggers the Bipolar disorder and it is just a downward spiral.

    You are right to say your son is brave. He is a trooper but surely there is another medicine he can try that will stop the needless suffering. Poor little man. My heart goes out to him. It is embarrassing to feel that way but it is wonderful he can talk so easily to you about it. His is so mature for his age.

  5. Oh and also I know what he is talking about with things getting smaller and such. When I get really anxious and my fight or flight responses are in gear things get further away from me. It is like tunnel vision and things just get smaller as they move down the tunnel even though they aren't moving at all. It is hard to explain.

  6. Wow, I'm so sorry you and your son are going through this, Mama Bear. My daughter hasn't had that kind of experience for a while. But just the other day, I was asking her if she remembered the voices she used to claim to hear. She said yes--they were voices that told her she was stupid, an idiot, etc. I thought maybe she was just describing the kind of negative self-talk most of us engage in at times. But she said the voices were "really loud."

    Like Pink, her focus greatly improved with Ritalin (Focalin). Abilify helped her moods stabilize and alleviated a lot of her anxiety and phobias, but really didn't do much to help with her severe focus issues. Her IEP also allows gives her time to do regular class assignments in the special ed resources room so she can have a quiet, distraction-free place to work.

  7. Mama, you may love the reaction you are getting from the school but the school environment he is in right now is stressing him, even with the special treatment you and he are getting. Your son is not stable. And he is suffering. Something about his situation is going to need to change as you move forward in his schooling. You need to alter the environment or up/change his meds so he can deal with the stress (and please don't go with ritalin unless you want to shoot him right into full blown mania and psychosis - consult the CABF treatment guidelines). Something here needs to change.

  8. Meg- Thanks for the feedback. I did talk to my son about any stressors at school and if he liked it there. He did have some stress with music class, but was happy about being at his school and wouldn’t want to change it. Today I talked to the principal about his stress in music class and he suggested removing him from the class all together and allowing him to work on his homework once a week during this time instead. Hopeful this will reduce his stress. As for everything else, I have a call into our pdoc.

  9. You certainly do have a wonderfully brave little boy there and he has a remarkably brave Mama! I know my kiddos are frequently struggling with the amount and volume of sound around them. It is certainly more intense for them when they are on the depressed side and especially if there are mixed episodes. What you are seeing in your son could either be extremely rapid cycling or mixed episodes. What is his pdoc saying?

  10. Mel- We saw him yesterday. He isn’t saying much right now but "we just don’t know" and offering up another medication. I think our HMO has a policy on not using labels of any sort or using words like "manic" or "mixed state" as they say, we’re just going to treat the symptoms described.